Mechanicals; Bar Cons, RetroShift and Friction

This happened today:

broken. time for a new bike.

It might not be a really big mechanical but it was quite freaky. I went to flick back up to the big chainring and it snapped off at the base. It was right outside my house so i did a mega-quick bike change…

…and was back on the road in the few seconds it took me to change the saddle, saddlebag and lights, then pump up the tyres. So slightly longer than the famous junior switcheroo watched by Jacky Durand. Having ridden the gears for a couple of days it meant i was back on fixed. The irony struck me a while later – I’d swapped the bike because it was broken and only gave me a range of 10 gears, including the 39:15, only to take out the unbroken fixed wheel instead which gave me the 39:15 and nothing else.

I have decided that more old school tomfoolery is required in order to replace the broken brifter. I am going to open up the box of delights that is the barcon. Somewhat weirdly, I use friction barcons on my TT weapon. This is so i can run a variety of mismatched components. The joy of friction shifting is that you can trim it really easily and never have to suffer the rattling of badly adjusted indexing. Of course, you could always adjust the gears properly, but for me this has generally been a mechanical leap too far. A second point of irony for today  is that the xenon campag set up on my Mercian was working perfectly until i snapped it. I’d somehow managed to dial it in correctly after about two years.

A barcon setup is cheaper than the cheapest set of brifters. Considering that the Mercian is my winter steed and all round workhorse, with occasional training duties and light tours, it’s a good reason to go friction. There is less to go wrong and they are easier to trim, change and replace. I have opted for the dia compe set:

Dia Compe Silvers (image taken from a lovely bike, great post on friction vs index)

I have shimano on the TT whip, like most people, but liked the look of the Silvers. I went for a fairly cheap set of brake levers, again dia compe. It will certainly make the bike look a bit more ‘vintage’. One other option is the retroshift:

Which is undoubtedly the right choice if you want your bike to be by far the ugliest bike of all the bikes in the world. Or you do cyclocross. Or both.

I really like my Mercian. It rides beautifully and the frame was the best £180 I think I’ve splurged on a bike-related purchase. It’s a 531c audax frame and absolutely wondrous for long, leisurely days in the saddle.

After a couple of winters I’ve also noticed that the braking surface is getting seriously compromised. I will need a new set of wheels before too long.

6 thoughts on “Mechanicals; Bar Cons, RetroShift and Friction

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      1. If you spent as much time riding your bike as buying bits for it, perhaps you’d know how to properly test clip-on mudguards.

  1. It’s about time the mercian got proper handbuilt wheels on anyway – mind you, the ‘bog standard factory wheels immediately replaced with race set’ have to be used somewhere. Give me a shout if you want me to build you a set.

  2. Feels sacrilegious to use a Campag equiped Mercian as a winter bike, but that’s what mine as become too. Coupled with the Longflap saddlebag it’s really reassuringly stable and useful compared to the mudguardless lightweight flexi thing I built up in the summer.

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